September 19, 2012 – As old as IT itself is the “alignment with the business side” challenge.

What keeps this particular challenge top-of-mind is that technology is always changing, forcing the role of IT leadership to change with it. In the insurance industry, as in any vertical market, the IT department is now charged with a lot more than keeping the lights on. In fact, it seems that IT leadership is focused almost as much on emerging technologies as it is on the enterprise systems they develop and maintain.

It’s not that the business side is sitting still, waiting for IT to create the next innovative means to a profitable end. Astute business leaders are demanding user-driven configuration to enable them and their staffs to create new products, as well as identify and respond to new markets and geographies and improve the business processes that fuel success.

So against those demands, is the business side attempting to gain a better understanding of IT’s undertakings? Is IT doing a good job of managing the business side’s ever-expanding expectations? The answer to both questions continues to frame the "insanity definition," first quoted by author Rita Mae Brown: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results."

Accordingly, this leaves IT in a precarious place. Faced with vetting the merits of emerging and/or disruptive technologies such as the enterprise mobility, virtualization and advancements in telematics, as well as their value as an integrated part of existing functional systems, IT is also being asked to recommend cost-saving ways of generating new business. In other words, it’s no longer sufficient for IT leadership to understand and manage the technology infrastructure, information systems and output; they must also learn how the business works, and how to strategize technology’s role to support decision making and drive the business forward.

For some IT executives, this mandate feels awkward, especially if they are unfamiliar with the nuances of the industry, their business or the interdependency of its functional units. But most leaders in their respective IT organizations are not hamstrung by having a seat in the boardroom; competitive advantage awaits them both at the corporate and professional level.

This commentary originally appeared at Insurance Networking News.

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